"The perfect weekend getaway: crafting, food and a murder or two!" —New York Times bestselling author Lynn Cahoon
As the head of a bustling crafting retreat, Cora Chevalier could use a break of her own. So she and her creative cohorts temporarily swap small-town Indigo Gap for the Sea Glass Island Craft Retreat, where they teach classes and create beachy crafts like shell mosaics and sea glass chimes. Cora and her boyfriend Adrian are enchanted by their surroundings—especially the stunning wedding and blissful newlyweds they encounter on the beach. But awe becomes shock when the bride turns up dead the next day . . .
The woman’s death appears to be the result of a severe jellyfish sting. But when it’s revealed that she was murdered and Adrian becomes a suspect, Cora must hitch the real culprit to the crime—and fast. Because it just might take everything she has to crack a case more twisted than her most complex macramé knot!
Includes crafting tips!
Praise for Mollie Cox Bryan’s mysteries
“Personable main characters and a setting that crafting readers will envy.” —RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars on Death Among the Doilies
"Scrapbookers and hobby cozy fans will enjoy this delightful holiday escape." —Library Journal on A Crafty Christmas
“A font of ingenuity . . . superb entertainment.” —Mystery Scene magazine on Scrapbook of Secrets
About the Author
Mollie Cox Bryan is the author of the Cumberland Creek Scrapbooking mystery series and the Cora Crafts mystery series. She is also author of two cookbooks, the regional bestseller Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pies and Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant Cookbook: A Lifetime of Recipes from the Shenandoah Valley. An award‑winning journalist and poet, she currently blogs, cooks, and scrapbooks in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband and two daughters. Scrapbook of Secrets was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Visit her on the web at molliecoxbryan.com.
Read an Excerpt
The bride resembled a mermaid princess in her sparkling white-blue outfit. The dress fit her curves down to right above her knees, tumbling out onto the sand in a splay of tulle, with lace cut to imitate scales.
A small but rapt gathering of people encircled the couple, and not far from the group stood Cora Chevalier and Adrian Brisbane. The sun hung low in the sky, displaying great streams of colors — brazen orange and crimson, melting into the sea. Torches planted in a circle around them lit the area softly, and distracted the mosquitoes, always a problem for Cora.
Cora and Adrian had arrived at the Big Island Craft Retreat that morning, planning to make time for themselves before the official launch of the retreat the next day. They had decided to go for a stroll when they happened upon the intimate wedding.
Adrian slipped his arm around Cora.
"A beach wedding," Cora whispered. So stunning. So intimate there wasn't even a bridal party.
As the bride turned her head to kiss the groom, Adrian stumbled on the sand.
"Are you okay?" Cora asked.
"Um, yeah, I guess. Sorry," he said, red faced, flummoxed.
She turned back around to the bride and groom and spotted the most gorgeous tiara she had ever seen perched on the bride's head.
Crafted from sea glass, rhinestones, and a few seashells, the tiara fit her head as if she were born with it. Seized with a longing to find out all about that tiara, Cora wondered who made it. Was it created with real sea glass? She'd read about the rarity of authentic sea glass. People used fake sea glass in their crafts because it was cheaper and easier to find. She stepped forward but Adrian held her back.
"Whoa," he said. "Where are you going?"
"I just wanted a closer view of the tiara," she said. "It's stunning."
"We better head back," Adrian said. "Our dinner reservation —"
"Oh yes, sure, that's right," Cora said. But she hated to leave the scene, a tableau straight out of a bridal magazine, except for the lack of a large wedding party.
"C'mon," Adrian said, and grabbed her by the hand.
He pulled her away from the wedding and whisked her back to the resort. The place had one fine-dining restaurant and they were going to make the most of it this first night away from Indigo Gap, North Carolina, where they both lived.
Adrian, a school librarian, and Cora, the proprietor of the Kildare House Craft Retreat, had met only a few months ago. Their relationship was moving along at a snail's pace, according to Cora's best friend and business partner, Jane Starr. But both Cora and Adrian were comfortable with how it was progressing.
Before they reentered the resort, Adrian grabbed Cora and kissed her.
"Well," she said, after they finished kissing. "I don't know what brought that on, but I'm all for it."
He grinned and slipped his arm around her once more as they walked down the path to the resort. They were interrupted by a loud voice coming from behind a clump of spiky beach shrubs and small trees.
"Honestly, I don't know what you were thinking! That tiara is priceless! One of a kind! Why would you simply let her have it?"
Tiara? Cora and Adrian stilled.
"You don't need the money, for God's sake. I was hoping for publicity. She's got the connections," another voice said.
Cora's and Adrian's eyes locked. He grimaced.
"Connections?" the female speaker said, and made a noise of exasperation. "Are you that gullible? She's a rich girl from this island. She's modeled a few times. She's written a few books. But she's never going anywhere, especially now, since she married that trash."
Cora's eyebrows lifted as she glanced at Adrian, whose face was reddening, again.
"I'm not necessarily talking about that. She's a scholar, too, you know," the male voice replied. "She's got publishing connections."
"Unbelievable! She's published a few books on mermaids and now she's a scholar! Mermaids!"
"Now, now ..." the voice said, quieter and moving away from Adrian and Cora.
"Wow," Cora said. "Do you think they were talking about our bride?"
"Um, well, I ..." Adrian stammered and shoved his hands in his pockets.
What was wrong with Adrian? Normally he was a bit more articulate. This evening all he could do was stammer ... and kiss. More of the kissing, less of the stammering, Cora thought.
Cora's empty, gurgling stomach prompted her to pull Adrian further along the path.
Later, her mood softened by wine and a satisfying meal, Cora slipped into her king-size bed, covered in luxurious, plush bedding. Maybe Jane was right. Should she have invited Adrian to stay in the same room with her? But then again, Cora wasn't exactly ready for that step — and Adrian hadn't pushed her. He'd gotten his own room. No questions asked.
As she rolled over to her side, she thought of her own quilt-covered bed in her attic apartment, and her cat Luna, whose purr usually lulled her to sleep. Luna was being well-tended by Zora, her new friend and the owner of the Blue Note B & B. Cora closed her eyes and found sleep, even without Luna.
A siren rudely awakened her several hours later. She listened to the siren, not a police siren, but more like a warning signal. A fire alarm? Or a boat out on the ocean? She leapt up out of bed at the same time the phone rang. She picked up the phone.
She was greeted with a recording. "Please stay in your rooms. The warning siren is a notice for beach security. There is an emergency on the beach. Please stay in your rooms until further notice."
Emergency on the beach? What could it be?
Cora mentally sifted through the possibilities. Beach emergency — that could mean almost anything. Not a hurricane. The weather was perfect. Could some sea animal be beached? Or had someone had a heart attack, stroke, or gotten hurt on the beach? Paramedics were probably working on someone. She walked over to her window and strained to see. Flashing lights came into view, though she could barely see them. But the police and the paramedics were on it. This emergency was none of her concern.
Not this time.
The next morning, the 8 A.M. "teacher breakfast" loomed, a time to go over the schedule and a few "housekeeping" items for the retreat. When Cora found herself stressing because the retreat wasn't as organized as she'd like, she reminded herself she was here to teach. This was not her retreat to run.
She met Jane and Ruby near the elevators. They were all on the fifth floor with incredible views of Sea Glass Beach. The small island, named after the large amounts of sea glass it was blessed with, gave rise to the Big Island Craft Retreat, part of the island's establishment for fifteen years.
"Good morning, ladies," Cora said to them. "Where's London?"
"She's outside with the day care people," Jane said. "They'll be keeping her busy. They have all sorts of activities for the kids. Best retreat ever," she said, and smiled.
Ruby pressed the elevator button. "Sounds like an awesome arrangement. What the hell went on last night?" Ruby, a slightly stooped woman of a certain age, who had lived her whole life in Indigo Gap, was like a fish out of water in this high-tech, swanky resort. She lived in the gardener's cottage on the property Cora had purchased for her own craft retreats and was grandfathered in to the purchase. When Jane and Cora found out she was an herbalist and crafter, they invited her to join them in their craft retreat business.
"Some kind of emergency on the beach. Didn't you pick up the phone?" Cora asked.
"No, I didn't reach it in time," Ruby said. "And I couldn't figure out how to use the bloody voice mail system."
"It cleared early this morning," Jane said. "A lot of people were on the beach already when I took London to the day care."
As the elevator door opened and the three of them entered, the two women already inside nodded a good morning. As the door closed, one of them said, "Are you Jane Starr?"
Jane smiled. "Yes," she said. "And you are ...?"
"I'm Jessica and this is May," she said. "I'm so pleased to meet you. We've signed up for all your classes this weekend."
"Great!" Jane said. "I look forward to it."
"I have about twelve of your pieces at home," May blurted. "Big fan here."
Jane, an award-winning potter, was gathering quite a growing fan base. She could hardly keep up with her orders, especially for her goddess-mythology-themed pieces, and had been talking about hiring someone to help. Cora beamed. Jane had come a long way from the little girl she knew who loved to play in the mud — and the woman who'd married a troubled man. Jane was now her own woman.
Ruby caught Cora's prideful expression and she grinned at her. Ruby hadn't known them long, but she knew both of their stories, of course. Cora wasn't sure, but she thought Ruby considered herself Jane's patron saint of single motherhood. But what Ruby didn't realize was Jane had it all figured out.
The elevator door opened and everybody exited. Each group went their own direction.
Jane, Ruby, and Cora found the restaurant down a plush carpeted hall with several hanging, glittering chandeliers and huge paintings. Chloe's was one of the many eateries at the resort.
Mathilde Mayhue welcomed them to the table and made introductions. She was one of the first organizers of craft retreats. Fifteen years ago, she saw the market and the need for these retreats. It had become a measure of success to receive an invitation to teach.
Along with Cora, who was teaching a blogging-for-crafters class, Jane, who was leading a pottery class, and Ruby, instructing several classes including one on seashell candles, two other teachers were on the program. The headliner was Zooey, the macramé artist. Just Zooey. Complete with a limp handshake, Zooey seemed a type Cora often ran into at these retreats. She was manageable. Cora could get along with anybody, but she didn't have to become friends with her. The other teacher was Ryan Anderson, a crochet expert. Cora liked him immediately.
Mathilde's assistant, Hank Simmons, also sat at the large table, smiling at them with his gleaming white teeth on display. Cora wasn't sure how she felt about him. All those teeth made her nervous.
"What happened on the beach last night?" Ruby asked after they were all settled in, each with plates heaped high with breakfast food from the buffet.
"Oh." Mathilde waved her hand. "Who knows? I hate when that happens during the retreat. It startles people. I kind of wish they'd give me a heads-up so I could warn the retreaters before the alarm goes off. But most of the guests aren't in yet. They will be arriving throughout the day."
"Do you mean they never tell you what the emergency is?" Ruby asked, with a note of incredulity.
"They will eventually," Mathilde said, and took a bite of her whipped cream and strawberry-topped pancake.
Cora was pleased she and her crew were here, but she hadn't made up her mind about Mathilde yet, either.
But as she went over the rules for the craft teachers, Cora leaned more toward not liking her — especially with Mathilde's "no socializing with students" rule. What was that about? Cora didn't like that one bit. Nor the policy about extra craft supplies — if a crafter messed up, he or she was allowed one more try, with supplies covered by the cost of the event. After the limit, it was their responsibility to buy supplies. Cheap, Cora thought, especially at such an expensive retreat.
A server came up and whispered something into Mathilde's ear.
Mathilde's face turned ghastly white and her mouth dropped open.
What is wrong? Cora wondered, becoming concerned.
"Are you okay?" Ruby said, reaching for Mathilde. She was the closest one to her.
"I'm fine," Mathilde managed to say. "I've just gotten some horrible news."
"Drink some water," Ruby said.
The group quieted. The sound of others' voices in the place took on a louder quality. Plates and utensils clanging. Someone laughed.
Mathilde blinked. Her eyes watered. "I'm sorry." She dabbed her eyes with a napkin.
My goodness. What is the problem? Cora thought.
"This has never happened before," Mathilde said, stiffening. "But I might as well give you the news myself."
Cora's heart raced. What was going on? What had happened? Mathilde was falling apart right in front of them.
"There was a body found on the beach last night," Mathilde said with a hushed tone.
"A body," Jane said, her eyes wide. "What kind of body? What do you mean?"
"A human body," Mathilde said.
They sat stunned.
"A drowning?" Cora managed to say.
"They're not sure what happened," Mathilde said, her voice cracking. "The poor woman was just married yesterday. The evidence suggests she died from a jellyfish sting."
Cora coughed as she tried to swallow her coffee. "Was she married here? On the beach?"
Jane and Ruby turned to look at Cora.
"Yes," Mathilde said. "Marcy grew up on the island and came back home to marry here. So sad."
"Do you mean to tell me she was married yesterday and then murdered later the same day?" Ruby exclaimed. "How horrible!"
Mathilde nodded and took a sip of her cranberry juice before saying, "Tragic."
Jane sat with her mouth hanging open, as if she wanted to find words but couldn't.
The image of the beautiful bride still fresh in her mind, Cora's appetite dwindled and she pushed away her plate.
Cora tried to ignore the crime scene tape on the sectioned-off part of the beach. But she was a bit distracted by it as she, Jane, and Adrian walked around it. They didn't speak about it, even as it flapped in the breeze, an unspoken pact among them.
"There!" Jane said, pointing to a cluster of sparkly sea glass caught in the sand.
Cora's attention moved from ignoring the crime scene to the gleaming glass nuggets half buried in the sand.
"Ah-ha!" Cora said.
They crouched and scooped up the sea glass. Enamored, Cora had studied up on sea glass in preparation for the trip. After viewing Mathilde's sea glass creations, she became even more thrilled about being here and trying her hand at crafting with the glass.
"So lovely." Jane splayed her hand out, revealing her treasure. Aqua and cobalt glass stones tumbled around on her hand. "I'm going to use this in some of my pottery." Her eyebrows lifted as she grinned. Jane's deep blue eyes were filled with inspiration.
"This island is magical," Cora said. "The way it attracts sea glass and seashells. It's like a crafter's fantasy come true."
"Yeah," Adrian said. "I've always found sea glass fascinating. It's like a reverse gemstone."
Jane laughed. "What do you mean?"
"Gemstones are made by nature and refined by people. Sea glass is made by people and refined by the sea. You know, after years of our discarded bottles and jars rolling around in the sea, we find these beautiful pieces of glass," he said.
"Exactly," Cora said, placing her glass treasures in her bag. "And Mathilde crafts some lovely jewelry from sea glass. She's made quite a career from it."
"I'm looking forward to her sea craft class," Jane said after a moment. "Hey, your nose is getting pink."
"Darn," Cora said. She wore a big floppy hat and plenty of sunscreen and yet an hour on the beach gave her a pink nose. "I should be moving inside anyway. I need to check the classroom out and make sure they have enough outlets and so on. The last time I guested, the class had to share outlets and it was so disruptive."
"I'll go with you," Jane said.
"Me too," Adrian said. "I'm going to head back and get my book. I think I may sit on the beach for a while and read."
A gentle, warm breeze blew up, ruffling Adrian's dark hair. His sunglasses prevented Cora from seeing and admiring those jade eyes of his.
"Gee, sounds like fun," Jane teased. "Sounds like something Cora would do. Go to the beach and read."
"What's wrong with that?" Cora asked as Jane walked off toward the resort. She looked at Adrian and pulled a face as they followed Jane.
"What time is our tour of the island scheduled?" Adrian asked, after they'd gotten to the vast lobby of the resort.
"We'll see you at two," Cora said, and kissed his cheek.
"You two are so much fun I can't stand it," Jane said, after he left them. "A kiss on the cheek?" She rolled her eyes. "You can do better than that."
"What? Right here in the lobby? I don't think so," Cora said.
"Let's find our classrooms," Jane said.
Cora pulled out her map and instruction sheet. "Okay. It looks like we are down this hallway. Over there." She pointed. "And out that door."
Excerpted from "Macramé Murder"
Copyright © 2017 Mollie Cox Bryan.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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